February 2, 2024

Higher Ed Policy Roundup: Vol. 8 - Issue 4

Policy and Advocacy

This Week in Washington

On Wednesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a markup of the College Cost Reduction Act. This legislation was introduced in January and would make the following modifications to the federal student aid system, among other changes to higher education:

  • Eliminate origination fees and interest capitalization;
  • Eliminate the Grad PLUS Loan program;
  • Limit the amount of federal student loans a student can receive annually at the median cost of attendance for students enrolled in similar degree programs nationally;
  • Cap the aggregate student loan limit at $150,000 for professional degree students, $100,000 for graduate students, and $50,000 for undergraduates;
  • Create a new income-driven repayment plan that would end time-based forgiveness; and
  • Standardize the format and content of financial aid offer letters.

The bill passed the committee in a 22-19 vote that fell along party lines. The next step in the process is for the bill to go to the House floor for a vote, but no date has been scheduled.

In response to the College Cost Reduction Act, House Democrats announced a “Roadmap to College Student Success.” This legislative roadmap includes a number of smaller bills that would do the following, among other changes:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness: reduce the number of years required in a public service job to obtain forgiveness; count payments made on loans prior to consolidation and certain forbearances and deferments as qualifying payments; and eliminate the requirement that borrowers be employed in a public service job at the time of forgiveness.
  • Graduate loans and grants: allow graduate and professional students to exhaust their remaining Pell Grant funds to finance their graduate education and provide them with access to subsidized loans.
  • Data transparency: ensure that schools report data on student outcomes, such as enrollment, completion, and post-college earnings, while protecting students’ privacy.

On Tuesday, regarding the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the Education Department (ED) announced it would begin sending Institutional Student Information Records (ISIR) to schools and state agencies in the first half of March. Previously, ED had planned to send ISIR to entities by the end of January, which is later than normal. The delay in the FAFSA process is a result of ED implementing provisions of the FAFSA Simplification Act.

Recent Legislation

The following bill(s) have been recently introduced for consideration by the 118th Congress (2023-2024):

H.R. 7144Change of Ownership and Conversion Improvement Act [Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT-4)] would ensure the Department of Education does not slow or impede higher education institutions from actively changing ownership or converting from for-profit to nonprofit or public status.

S. 3695 – [Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)] would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to change eligibility provisions for loan forgiveness to include teachers. A companion bill, H.R. 7139, was introduced in the House by Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT-5).